Saturday, August 27, 2011

Leadville race report

Fixing the pebbles

Heading to the start I was mentally thinking over the 30 hours and how I was going to tackle it. Sure I had a plan but not everything always goes to plan when running a 100 mile footrace and sure enough never in Leadville. I stopped a few blocks from the start line. I could feel tiny pebbles in my shoes without hesitation I sat down on some steps and shook them out. Once laced back up I joined the group near the start for some quick photos. As each minute ticked closer to the start it felt like eternity. I was being to fill with nervousness. Wondering was I actually able to dig deep enough and see it through this year. Suddenly in mid thought I heard the shotgun echo through the air and we were in motion.

4:00 a.m and off and running

I sided up to Kevin "Just Finish" Green, Jeff "Wildman" Leigh and Matt "The President" Antoniou running a comfortable 11 minute mile and chatting periodically to take my mind off the run. The four of us were a mix for the first seven miles then after that it was just Kevin and me. About two thirds the way around Turquoise Lake the sun was rising quickly.  The two us got stuck in a slower than wanted congo line for a few miles.  I confirmed with Kevin we were going to make a move and force ourselves by them. At that point we knew we were behind schedule and needed to pick it up for the remaining portion of the section. This was the first time I worried about missing a cut-off. Mark "Majic" McCaslin had made everyone a cheat sheet of cut-off times by aid station. All I could do was worry now that I would racing the clock until my green bracelet would be cut. Not a feeling I wanted is early in the race. Hitting the aid station I heard Keith "Anchorman" Kohler yell out Suann "Honeybee" Lundsberg's location. She was exactly on the planned spot. Like a Nascar pit crew we exchanged out my three bottles, handed me two bags of food, sunglasses and confirmed I was warm enough for the next section. 

Start to MayQueen 2:28 actual 2:37

Within a few feet of getting onto the Colorado Trail right out of MayQueen I realized I forgot to get my plan for the section and the disposable camera. I had written my plan out by sections within sections. For example, in this section I had a five mile climb up Sugarloaf then once over the summit it would be a four mile decent down powerline then one and a half mile on the blacktop road into the aid station. Each of those section had a goal pace and when the three were added together it was the total for the entire section. Every section was detailed out like this. Now with no plan in actual hand I went off if feel and hoped for the best. The camera was for me to get pictures on the course.

I once again sided up with the President and Just Finish in the climb on the trail up to Hagerman Road. After a bit of time it was Just Finish and me running side by side up to the top of Sugarloaf. Cresting the top I was ready to run and wanted to make up time. Knowing I could take the long decent quickly I made a move to get some time on my side. The sun felt great and my legs were fresh from the five day taper. Coming onto the blacktop I slowed down to a run walk on the rolling road. Made my way along the road until once again
Coming into towards Fish Hatchery
I heard the Anchorman yell out Honeybee is over there.  Running up to the aid station I stated my bib number "681" then joking waved a water bottle and replied, "who do I pass the baton too?" The volunteers laughed at my little joke. Then I turned out of the aid station and found Honeybee. Off with my gaiters, top layer jacket, two new bottles and two more bags of food. Boom!! Back out and heading to the crew only Treeline four miles away.

MayQueen to Fish Hatchery 2:13 actual 2:17

Here starts the long blacktop open road to Treeline. Realizing I have know forgotten to get my plan and camera again!! Here as I walked along the road I fueled myself with fresh fruit and some carbs. About mile into the section I started to turn it into a jog then a slow run. I caught up to Majic and we ran together to the Treeline. I don't like the section to Treeline for two reasons: first it is a blacktop road and second it is all open to the sun. No race is perfect so I just thought get through it its only a few miles of the entire hundred.
Treeline (crew only access)
Coming into the crew only area I found Honeybee and Anchorman ready for the exchange. New bottle of Cytomax and more food were handed off. I could see the President just ahead of me running away. I kept powerwalking and fueling myself along the dirt road. Once everything was ingested I began to run my way into the aid station. Just a few yards before the aid station there was a volunteer asking if anyone needed a dropbag. Each runner would acknowledge her and then she radioed the station to prepare the bag. That was impressive! Once in to Half Pipe a volunteer grabbed my two empty bottles and refilled them while I grabbed a few quick bites of food. Then back on to the jeep road I went.

Fish Hatchery to Half Pipe 1:38 actual 1:35

In the first mile I was mentally recalling this section from last year and how it felt longer than expected. With no plan I began to feel stress again about not being able to make the cut-off. I thought with my current pace I had no chance to make it to Twin Lakes. I keep moving forward but each of the three hill climbs in this section just compounded on defeated state of being. I began to do pick up runs whenever the ground leveled out or was a decent. I would think deep down inside don't stop trying until they cut the green bracelet. It was a nightmare of emotions for what seemed forever. Suddenly, I was beginning the final three mile decent into Twin Lakes. I checked my watch and noticed it was not even noon. I was getting stressed for no apparent reason. Happiness settled back into me and I at brisk pace along the trail straight into Twin Lakes. Along those last miles I took in some beautiful views that just made the moment even better. Coming down the last tiny hill into the aid station I could see Honeybee, Anchorman and Bob, the first pacer, awaiting me. With what felt like the speed of lightening I was given new bottles, food and an Ipod for the climb to Hopeless Aid Staion.
Honeybee in action during the bottle exchange

Half Pipe to Twin Lakes 2:06 actual 2:07

Making my way down the dirt road I found my way to the field that would lead me across the valley to the trailhead. As I was eating I realized once again no plan and no camera. Oh was this torture never going to end?!?! All fueled up it was time to get to Winfield quickly. I worked my way through about seven cold water stream crossings. None deeper my knees, but with my momentum i was creating a bow wave about mid thigh deep. After the last crossing I jogged to the trailhead. Seeing the sign I kissed my hand and slapped the sign. I murmured, "Be back in a bit, I promise."  Then I began a comfortable 23 Minute pace up the mountain being sure no to rush it so hard that I would reach anaerobic stage and have to stop for rest. I locked into the music and just took in the view blocking out all time. I knew it would be long and watching the clock would not be conducive mentally. Footstrike after footstrike, song after song, view after view, I just kept climbing then the trees separated and there stood the same tents, llamas & volunteers from last year. Only difference I felt better and was about an hour ahead of last year. I checked in Hopeless, got my bottles filled, grabbed a few bites and on my way to the final climb to the pass. Cresting the pass I could see a few runners climbing the backside up to me. I tightened my waist pack and pressed the pace down the trail. With less traffic this year I ran the entire trail down to trailhead. Once I turned on to the dirt road heading to Winfield I could feel my eyes tearing up. Here I just covered nearly 50 miles and knowing Leadville never lets up I had to turn around and run it back. Any given moment this course can break you physically and/or mentally.  I kept my pace shuffling along into Winfield. Where crossing the line I was rushed on to a scale, announced down .8 lbs, someone grabbed my bottles, then shoved out of the tent into the Anchorman. It all happened so fast all I could think about was I just lost two bottles to someone I don't know.  Then instantly I see that someone give Anchorman the bottles as Honeybee & Bob prepare to send me back out.

Twin Lakes to Winfield 4:05 actual 3:46

Back on to the dirt road leading us to the trailhead my spirits are now up having someone to talk to taking my mind off the miles. Bob was ready for the task he had extra layers, food, drink, and anything else that I might need in his backpack. He had stories and conversations that kept me smiling. As we progressed down the two mile dirt road we first saw the President then the Green Hornet followed by Just Finish. At this time Majic was no longer in the race. Turning on to the trail we started with a brisk hiking pace. Shortly into the climb Bob mentioned he didn't think he would be able to keep up since I was running strong today. I said that I wasn't worried about taking breaks going up the mountain knowing it might help me save energy for later in the race.  So we stuck together and worked our way back up 12600'. Bob kept track of our progress by elevation and not distance entire climb up. Clearing the top we made our move legs feeling fresh we started passing runners gradually on way to the hopeless aid station. Once in the aid station Bob refilled my bottles and gave me some potato soup. I took in the view and chatted with another runner briefly. As we were preparing to leave I asked the gentleman talking to Bob if had a llama and sure enough he had three at the aid station. I asked if I could get a picture with one before heading out. Within seconds I was next to one of his llamas posing for a picture. Of course, I did the smart thing and asked him to take two just to be safe. Bob gave him a contact email address to send it to us.
Lenny the llama and me at 12000' Hopeless Aid Station

Then we heading out with a nice four mile decent and another jog across the meadow back in Twin Lakes was needed to be completed. Bob picked up the pace and we pushed hard down the mountain. Once again legs still fresh and full of smiles we cruised on down the down.  Moments later we arrived back at the trailhead sign I had seen earlier that day. I kissed my hand, slapped the sign and said, "told you I would be back!" Bob gave me his best run down the mountain and said for me to continue on without him. The sun was setting and no headlamp I quickly thanked him then darted towards the aid station. The seven water crossings were even colder now at dusk. The first one took me gasping for a breath and each one after was not too much easier to stomach.  Eventually, I hit the short road that lead me up to the aid station. I ran it all the way in and just before entering the station honeybee in the darkness yells out," Steve over here."
I sat down in a chair that Kenyon had roused up. They cleaned my feet, changed me into fresh clothes & shoes, gave me some coffee, soup, headlamp and all within three minutes I was leaving the aid station with Kenyon "Jimmy James" pacer number two.

Winfield to Twin Lakes 3:35 actual 4:00

Knowing it would be a long three and a mile climb basically straight out of the aid station I asked him to keep it to a brisk hike. I didn't feel I had the energy to spend running uphills and wanted to save my running for the downs.  He knew the plan was keep us right on track. Whenever it was flat we jogged, downs we ran and uphills were a slow hike with a few stop breaks. Jimmy James also was monitoring my salt intake and fluid intake. This guy was basically doing all the thinking for me which brought great relief to my tired mind. Focused on him I just followed along the trail making every moment count. A few miles in I became more in tune with everything and we started a bit of conversation sometimes I found it hard to process answers and just listened. Once again I became a bit nervous about missing the next cutoff into Half Pipe. Jimmy James said he knew we were ahead of plan and should be fine. I just needed to know the actual time to comfort myself. Coming into the aid station I saw it written on the wall and knew we were good again. He took my bottles while I found some soup and sat. While refilling the bottles he asks, "do you want pine needles for flavor?" It took me a minute then seeing the grin on his face I laughed.

Twin Lakes  to Half Pipe 2:45 actual 2:54

Now we had a flat two miles to treeline. This section was moving quicker and I was starting to feel stronger. The sky was amazing. Jimmy James pointed out the moon in an Orangeish hue sitting on top of a mountain peak out to the west. It brought a bigger smile to my face just staring at it for what felt like an hour. Soon we were heading to the line up of crew cars at treeline. In the midst of darkness Jimmy James found Honeybee and got us all squared away. Just before I could blink we gone and heading right on through to Fish Hatchery four miles away.  Turning on to the blacktop I was far from thrilled to know I had to run this blacktop section with tired feet. The pace was more of brisk hike of a 15 minute pace. At one point we sided up to another runner with a pacer and jokingly we commented on racing against each other to the next stop. The joking lasted longer than the actual running. Seeing the lights across the open field to Fish Hatchery began to feel like they were moving farther away and not any closer. This in the back of mind became frustrating. I just wanted to get there and move on to the next section. But time was becoming a cruel joke and the aid station made no attempt in getting closer. Finally, we arrived and Jimmy James noted ten minutes ahead of plan for those two sections. He delivered far more than I could have asked for in a pacer. Honeybee runs over and greets us explaining the next two pacers are ready. I replied that I need to weigh in first and she says they are not weighing people. I refused to believe it because it was written in the race guide so I had her ask the volunteer to be absolutely sure. Sure enough they said no weighing here. Lauren & Ally aka double trouble, honeybee and Jimmy James surrounded me and prepped me for the next leg. Again before I could really process all that was happening they had me heading back out on to the course.

Half Pipe to Fish Hatchery 1:55 actual 1:54

Lauren was full of energy and driving me along.  The road section to the base of powerline went by rather smoothly. Reaching the dirt Lauren handed me the walking sticks and picked up the pace. She kept talking to me as we climbed nonstop pass each runner. She would first pace a runner with their pacer then a moment later I would finally pass them. It continued all the way up the first long climb. Lauren was just motoring up and I was digging deep to keep up. Almost reaching the top I was quickly startled by two cameramen in all black sitting quietly talking pictures of us ascending the mountain. Shaking it off with a chuckle we pressed on to the first false summit. Then again and again and again false summit after false summit. I was prepared for these letdowns and knew to continue on and after this five mile stretch I would begin the decent into MayQueen. The entire climb I kept looking up and commenting on the beautiful starry night. Working our way down to Hagerman Road we turned off the headlamps briefly and jogged along the road taking the view from above. With the headlamps Lauren turned the run back on. We were now running from reflective tape to reflective tape rotating to jogs in between which felt shorter than the runs. Next thing I knew I pointed out the turn on to the CO trail which was the last portion of the leg. I thought I would have energy to run this area but the section felt very technical on tired legs.  I recalled that on the outbound I had seen a sign that indicated 15 miles and on the opposite side 85 miles. I mentioned to Lauren let's turn to make it before the hour closes out. Knowing we were close the chase was on for the sign. At brink of surrendering to time it appeared. I knelt down and hugged the sign. Looking at my watch I noticed I had been running for 23:59:42 and was very proud to be at this point. In know did the math and realized 15 miles in six hours was a sure win. For the first time in the entire run I truly knew I was going to finish! We continued on for the next little bit. Lauren sang random songs to keep my mind off things and once again we popped out into another aid station. Here we were coming into MayQueen. Honeybee, Majic and Ally were all awaiting us. A final exchange of bottles and food then we were heading out on to the course.

Fish Hatchery to MayQueen 3:00 actual 3:13

Now it was time to finish the race and Ally was ready to bring me into town. Only problem my toes felt like my toenails were going to pop off at any moment. So I ran when I could run and walked when I had nothing to give. I told her run all the downs and I would do my best to stay with her. The six portion of six miles was rough and it felt like I could never get into a steady rhythm. Miles passed by little by little. Eventually, we made it to Tabor boat ramp and the smell of summer camping filled the air. The sun was now on its second rising and seemed much brighter than yesterday's dawn. Now I realized I had one true mistake, no sunglasses. Being tired the sun was tough to deal with running towards it. Briefly we picked up the run walk on the next few miles knowing the last five were a gradual climb to the finish. Just have to love how an ultra will do that to you. Run you all day then when tired make the finish an uphill battle. Starting the last five miles Ally was ready to keep running. I said look at everyone it looks like a zombie march and my toes hurt I just want to walk for awhile. She eventually gave into my notion and walked with me. I remember talking most of that portion but what exactly I can not recall. Making it up to the final paved section I saw the runner in front of us, which was less ten feet. Turning to Ally I said, "guess who that is." She was unsure of who it was. So I chimed in, "that is Jerry. This is his 28th completion today of the Leadville 100. No one has ran it more than him. And knowing he is going to finish we are going to FINISH."  Starting the boulevard into town Jerry started to run and the crowd was cheering. I quickly assessed this and started running too. I was not about to be left behind or walk it in. Reaching the bottom of the hill and now starting the final half mile climb to the finish I wished I had walked. My quads were hurting and I thought to myself it is only a few blocks hang in there. Suddenly, Wildman is next to me taking pictures. I look over and he is smiling & cheering me on to finish strong. I smiled back and continued to press forward.  Block after block I could sense I was getting a bit faster and the finish line was drawing close. The last block out I gave every stride I could crossing the finish in 28 hours 13 minutes. A volunteer quickly grabs me and as she is placing a finisher's medal around my neck I can feel exhaustion sweep my body as I place my hands on her hips to keep myself from collapsing into her. Then Ken Chlouber congratulates me and comments on the shirt I am wearing bearing his quote, 'you're better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can!' I give him a hug and leave the finish area in smiles.

MayQueen to Finish 4:05 actual 3:46

Ally and Wildman walk me over for a final weigh in to only discover I am now only down .5 lbs from my starting weight. Not too shabby I think to myself. I then head to the medical tent to make sure my feet are ok. A quick once over and I am all good. I settle in on the bleachers to watch the rest of my friends finish. Just watching their and every runners face as they breached the finish line was breathtaking. I don't think I could have achieved what I did if I did not have the amazing crew & pacers that supported me through the entire 100 miles. My THANKS goes out to them!!!
Total   27:50  Actual Finish 28:13

1 comment:

  1. Great race report! You certainly went into the race well preparred. You crew totally rocked. They kept you on track with nutrition and kept you moving forward.

    Congratulations on a fantastic race!!